Ohio State managed to put a week of unrest in its rearview mirror Oct. 24 by posting a dominating 38-7 homecoming victory over Minnesota in front of 105,011 fans at Ohio Stadium.
It was a particularly excruciating week for the Buckeyes, who had to endure an avalanche of criticism in the wake of last week’s 26-18 loss to unranked Purdue. Squarely in the critics’ crosshairs was an anemic OSU offensive attack with head coach Jim Tressel and quarterback Terrelle Pryor firmly in their sights.
But the Buckeyes responded with one of their best offensive explosions of the season, piling up 509 total yards that included a balanced 270 on the ground and 239 through the air. Pryor was the triggerman for that attack, rushing for more than 100 yards and passing for more than 200.
Pryor ran 15 times for 104 yards and a touchdown, and he completed 13 of 25 attempts for 239 yards and a pair of long touchdowns to receiver DeVier Posey. It was the second game this season in which Pryor had run for 100 or more yards and thrown for 200 or more.
“I thought (Terrelle) did a good job making decisions,” OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. “He’d like to have that one interception back. He knows that was a poor decision. But he wasn’t under duress quite as much as he was a week ago. And obviously he can make things happen with his feet. He had a good game.
“As far as the offense was concerned, I thought we put some things together. I thought everyone picked up their game. We all got a little bit better. If we’ll keep taking steps, we’ll see if we can compete for the Big Ten. We made it a little harder on ourselves by missing a field goal and throwing that interception down there in the end zone. We got better and we need to get considerably better as we move along.”
Pryor’s rushing total helped make up for the loss of starting tailback Brandon Saine, who was sidelined with a concussion after 11 first-half carries for 45 yards, and sophomore Dan “Boom” Herron, who is still out with an ankle problem.
The Buckeyes may have discovered a couple of new solutions at the tailback position, however. Redshirt freshman Jermil Martin carried seven times for 75 yards and a touchdown while true freshman Jordan Hall added 38 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
Meanwhile, Posey compiled eight receptions for 161 yards – both career-highs – and caught touchdown passes of 62 and 57 yards. The 161-yard effort was the most by an Ohio State receiver since Ted Ginn Jr. had 167 against Notre Dame in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl.
Junior receiver Dane Sanzenbacher added three catches for 62 yards.
The first half was a hard-fought scramble with Ohio State squandering its first scoring opportunity. The Buckeyes had a 19-play drive that covered 78 yards and ate 8:44 of the first-quarter clock, but kicker Aaron Pettrey yanked his 30-yard field goal attempt wide to the left.
The game remained scoreless until early in the second quarter when Pryor and Posey exploited a blown coverage in the Minnesota secondary. Posey got behind cornerback Traye Simmons for a 62-yard bomb that gave Ohio State a 7-0 lead with 9:47 left before halftime.
It stayed that way until Minnesota botched the opening kickoff of the second half. That set up a short field for the Buckeyes, and Pryor capped a three-play, 31-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown run.
That made it 14-0 at the 13:43 mark of the third period and appeared to open the floodgates. Hall tacked on an 11-yard touchdown run with 6:00 left before Pryor and Posey hooked up again, this time for 57 yards at the 2:59 mark to push the Buckeyes’ advantage to 28-0.
OSU added two more fourth-quarter scores – a 39-yard TD bolt by Martin and a 44-yard field goal from Pettrey – before the Gophers tallied a 16-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback MarQueis Gray to receiver Troy Stoudermire with 4:15 remaining to avoid the shutout.
The Buckeyes held the Minnesota offense to 286 total yards, but took away the big play. The Gophers were severely hampered in what they wanted to do when star receiver Eric Decker went out in the first quarter with an ankle injury. The Big Ten’s leading receiver had already caught three passes for 27 yards when he was sidelined.
In Decker’s absence, starting quarterback Adam Weber looked lost. He wound up completing only 10 of 23 attempts for 112 yards with two interceptions. He was also sacked twice.
Gray was Minnesota’s version of Pryor. He was his team’s leading rusher with 81 yards on 11 carries and completed 5 of 6 passes for 51 yards and a touchdown.
Leading the defensive effort for Ohio State was junior end Thaddeus Gibson, who collected three sacks among his six total tackles. Gibson also recovered a fumble.
Junior linebacker Ross Homan led the Buckeyes with eight tackles while defensive tackle Doug Worthington and linebacker Brian Rolle had five each. Defensive end Nathan Williams led a group with four tackles and the sophomore also had a sack.
The Buckeyes forced Minnesota into four turnovers. In addition to Gibson’s fumble recovery, safety Kurt Coleman and linebacker Austin Spitler grabbed interceptions while special teams player Zach Domicone recovered the fumble on the third-quarter kickoff that touched off his team’s second-half explosion.
Ohio State (6-2, 4-1) will be back in action next Saturday when the Buckeyes host New Mexico State. The Aggies (3-4, 1-2 WAC) host Fresno State this evening beginning at 10:15 p.m. The game will be televised by ESPNU.
Kickoff for next week’s game will be shortly after 12 noon Eastern. The Big Ten Network will handle the telecast.